I (David) will be the first to admit I am not the biggest fan of short term missionaries. I see many pass through my office and through our home and I wonder if the long term impact they are having is helping or hurting the people of Cameroon. I’m quick to quote the statistics from When Helping Hurts on the number of short term missionaries that go into long term missions, or even those that contribute after they leave. But recently I was refreshed by four unlikely college students who are forcing me to reevaluate my stance.
People are people
In case you were unaware from the many missionary stories of heroic triumph and God saving people from innumerable odds and maybe even this blog. Missionaries are far from perfect, for additional proof of this statement see Romans 3:23.
One of my short termer’s realized this when he played basketball with some of the employees and longer term missionaries and he was shocked to hear them complain. Yes unfortunately I must share a missionary confession that many of us have done this. Sometimes it’s easier to quote Philippians 2:14 than to live it.
God weaves it all together
Their first comment was that they were surprised at the scope of our operations. This team was reviewing our financial records and they were amazed at how much we were able to accomplish with the resources that we have. They had no idea how much went in to keeping a large operation like ours moving forward. They shared, that when they arrived here and began looking at our operation that it was like, “They were given a puzzle that was on the table and they had to put it back together without looking at the picture.”
In Cameroon the missionaries come from 15 different countries and we are currently involved in about 80 language projects throughout Cameroon. This doesn’t include the regional support that we also give to surrounding countries. God has given many gifts to the many people that serve here and they were able to see that some people are serving in a position that is unique to their gifting that could have only been a puzzle that was put together by God. I’m pretty sure I’m one of those weird shaped pieces and not an edge or corner piece.
It’s easy to get numb
The team had to walk five minutes to our main center each day to review our operations, this gave them the opportunity to interact with many of the Cameroonians along the road. It’s difficult to walk around without being asked for money, but after three weeks in the country one of them commented that he had grown numb to the children asking for money or food. His comment was if he could walk past poverty and not be affected after three weeks how much is he walking by in the United States and not noticing there.
I remember that not long after we arrived we were going shopping with a missionary who had been here for many years and we watched as she gave money to a cripple on the street. She warned us to not get too hardened to giving to those who ask. That might be why DeAnna and I both gave money to the same person this week that was a deaf-mute looking for medical assistance.
For more on this topic I suggest Luke 12:22-33
Heaven not Earth is my home
Two members from the team were having a conversation with a young woman who had just gotten back from her village and was preparing for a short trip out of the country. She shared with them that she finally had her own mud hut to live in after several years of living in other people’s homes. They couldn’t believe some of the living conditions that she lived in, lack of electricity, no running water or kitchen. And she told them very bluntly that she knew that her real home was in Heaven not here on Earth. My guess is that this team will remember this statement for many years to come.
So, when I receive the next request in my inbox to invite a short term missionary for a few weeks. I won’t immediately think. Ugh!!@# Not again, I’ll try to recall these four lessons I learned from a team from Houghton College. Who knows, maybe I’ll learn a lesson from the next short term missionary. Let me know if you would like to come and serve.